Thronedown Smackdown!
Jun 2012 20

As the dust continues to settle on the 2nd series of Game of Thrones, I’d like to congratulate my esteemed colleague in his commitment to providing critical updates and reviews of each episode. A balanced view is to his credit, but I might suggest that the focus and obvious adoration of this long and rambling fable is somewhat misplaced.

Why I hear you cry?

Because it’s not really that good. Okay – it is good. But just how good?

As an adolescent, fantasy literature was my read of choice, with Terry Brooks’ Shannara series and Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy being my favourites. But I left it all a long time ago. My frustration with the lack of cinematic reproduction of this genre was bordering on painful at the time. In the 80’s Fantasy highlights on the big screen came in the guise of the likes of Dragonslayer, Legend and Ladyhawke. Not exactly great fodder for those lapping up the epic tales on paper. In the 90’s the bar was lowered even further with Connery’s talking dragon in Dragonheart.

As clichéd as it sounds, it wasn’t until Peter Jackson’s mighty Lord of the Rings trilogy hit screens in 2001, with The Fellowship of the Ring that things took a turn for the better. Suddenly alien landscapes, cultures and languages were done justice, with the scale and budget they truly deserved. It’s only a pity I’d left my fantasy obsession behind me the best part of a decade before. Still, I watched and appreciated with interest. Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy was good, but, they weren’t perfect, and the same problems that Game of Thrones suffers from, were evident here. Narrative. It’s all down to the writing. And as hard as screenwriters may try, epic fantasy is never, ever going to suit the big or small screen. And it’s the small screen which causes Game of Thrones to frustrate even more. But more on that later.

Television drama (in the US) has been reinvented in the last 15 years, attracting stars previously only willing to grace Hollywood and the big screen. The reason? Writing. Some of the best screenwriting in any format has driven the success behind the likes of The Wire, The West Wing, The Sopranos, Californication and one of my own personal favourites, Huff. Each of these series framed their characters (and what characters) in unique, but earthly and recognisable situations, providing a backdrop to the individuals telling the stories, while allowing some ongoing (and sometimes incidental) stories to roll along. In some ways the locations are backdrops only – allowing the small scale and intimate details of the characters to play out. Mcnulty is the main draw, not the crimes he investigates – true dat. Okay, so the West Wing is a fantasy of sorts – but there are no goddamn dragons.

It’s the writing which lets Game of Thrones down. Not that it’s bad – in fact some of the one-liners given to Tyrion Lannister in particular, are gems. It’s just the characters are rendered bit parts in a fantasy world that looks good – but not great. Because despite budget and scale – this world is not entirely believable. Why? Because too much time is spent framing characters who, too often, are stereotypes of the genre. Joffrey and Jaime Lannister are nothing more than pantomime villains, Cersei a poor man’s Lady Macbeth and Littlefinger the archetypal scheming villain. Tyrion is the one true character that intrigues. And he is the talk of the town by fans of the show. And by the way, Eddard Stark was Boromir-lite.

As my honourable colleague fairly pointed out – the plots of Jon Snow and Daenerys in this second season were irritating distractions – pulling us from any plots we might care about. No doubt in the novels, they were major draws, but for them to work on the small screen, you’d be better off taking all their individual scenes and editing them together for an hour long episode each acting as an epilogue to the whole series and it would have been better. For this is the problem with epic fantasy, and why it works on the page but not on the screen. Too much is going on. It’s what made the multi Oscar-winning Return of the King the weakest of Jackson’s trilogy, and The Two Towers the strongest. More of the latter was based in reduced locations, before the characters split off on their own epic journeys, which stretched viewing patience beyond acceptable levels. Game of Thrones Series 2 suffered from fragmented stories that diluted their characters beyond anything of any substance.

Game of Thrones looks good on telly, and it’s well acted with some nice dialogue. But it’s too ‘big’ for the small screen, or for itself. It’s ‘wow factor’ is wearing thin. How many people will persevere with it, who knows?

But in the meantime let’s save our celebration for the writing of truly great drama, which needs no massive budget to distract us from what we care about when committing hours of our lives to television – and that’s the characters, for it is they who are the true draw on any TV series. We care about them and grow with them, and for the most part, want to see them based in some sort of reality, because it means more. Game of Thrones is all style, spectacle and shock value, but increasingly often rings hollow.

Having said all that, I suddenly feel massively protective of one of my all time favourites – the re-visited Battlestar Galactica.

Go figure.

NP

American Restoration
Jun 2012 21

The History Channel is now my go to channel, my latest addiction is American Restoration. It is like MTV’s Pimp My Ride but for Antiques. Well what Americans consider antiques anyway.

Rick’s Restoration is the setting for the show in question. Rick Dale our protaganist is a sleeveless denim shirt wearing biker character. In the title sequence he talks about working with objects built in a time when ‘made in America’ meant built to last forever. They can restore practically anything back to its former glory. They restore anything from 50’s Coca-Cola signs to petrol pumps and Cars.

Most shows will start with a customer bringing them an object to restore this is where their sister show Pawn Stars comes into play, The lads from pawn stars will buy something in the knowledge that restored they will get a far greater return on their investment. And that is the driver for the show really how much value can they add to what is essentially rusted but valuable antiques. Pawn Stars is about a family run pawn shop in Las Vegas (another good time killer of a show)

For me the pleasure comes from the craft and the techniques used to breath new life into the relics that are delivered to them. Like skilful surgeons they go about carful my researching the patients and deal with the issues one at a time and the put them back together again. They are truly skilled craftsmen, and the big reveal at the end of the show always impresses even though you know it they won’t have made a pigs ear of it.

Rick works with his son (most of the shows on the History Channel feature family business) and three other main craftsmen. There is good banter between the team with his son being a good guide for us as he learns the business we can learn with him. The son seems to be the butt of any pratical jokes, which he deals with in his ‘must be smoking a lot of pot to be that relaxed’ kind fo way.

It is probably my age but I really think the history channel is producing some very watchable television currently and deserve more viewers in the UK.

Catch American Restoration every day on the the History Channel.

RBT Answers the Big Questions About Prometheus… Sorta
Jul 2012 06

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is one of the year’s most anticipated films. With the personnel involved, and the link with one of the most successful Sci-Fi franchises in cinematic history (the Alien series), excitement levels amongst fan-boys rivalled a gaggle of Twi-Hards getting a glimpse of R-Pattz’s bare behind.

Upon its release, Prometheus was alternately praised, ridiculed, or shrugged at, depending on whom you listened to. But the debate didn’t stop there, with Ridley Scott at pains to point out that Prometheus wasn’t a direct prequel to Alien, instead making oblique references to ‘shared DNA’, the ways that this film tied up with its ‘DNA twins’ has inspired much debate.

So, with Prometheus having been out for quite some time now, we here at RBT thought that we should attempt to answer some of the unanswered (and unanswerable?) questions raised by the film that RBT’s own Tom Williams described as having the best trailer he’d ever seen.

Please note that these are just our opinions on the questions the film raises, and our answers are just our best guess. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment below. Questions and the answers themselves will be highly spoilerific, so if you haven’t seen the film what are you doing? Get yourself to a cinema, and then come back and get involved!

Read More…

Content is King!
Jul 2012 08


I have two boys aged 4 and 5 and they love television and it’s fascinating to watch them interact with the content dancing before their eyes.  They will literally talk back to the television and dance if it tells them to.  One of the new things my eldest has started to do is quote facts from adverts. For example, my mother was talking about putting some Vanish powder on the carpet to get rid of a stain, and he pipes up with “you have to leave it on for 20 minutes”.  If only he listened to his parents as well as he does the TV.

 

The reason I mention my boys is that they have no idea about channels-only content.  They ask for the show they want to watch when they want it, not understanding if it isn’t delivered to them instantly.  They have no idea that when I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s kids TV was only on for a couple of hours a day and Saturday mornings, the rest of the time we had to entertain ourselves.

This is obviously not a revelation to most of us, but it makes me think: what is the future for channels as we know them?  Surely BBC1,2,3,4 etc. will just become BBC-licensed and produced content.  We will expect to be able to pick what we want from their selection of programs and radio shows.  I know some will have concerns over finding new content if  faced with a menu bloated in scale like a restaurant yet to be visited by Gordon Ramsey.

I believe most people find new shows through word of mouth anyway.  Music is currently in the situation TV will be in in a few years if we are not careful: a mass of content distributed in hundreds of different formats on thousands of platforms.  The good news is people are always finding new music though (they don’t pay for it, but they do find it).

I don’t know many people who watch live TV these days unless it is a sporting event. Why would you, when you can use the time to watch exactly what you want?  I have heard stats along the lines of 60% of TV programming is watched live,. I don’t believe this tells the whole story, most of the working people I know who have kids record shows because they lead busy lives, can’t wait for something to be on, and then don’t want to sit through adverts. I know lots of people (including myself) who will start a show 15 minutes behind its broadcast so they don’t have to watch the commercials.

Surely the winner will be the company who works out how to deliver the following: Simple user interface, global day and date released content, and better quality than illegal downloading.

Simple to say, seemingly impossible to deliver.

New Rise of the Guardians Trailer
Jul 2012 09

I know what you’re thinking: “Rise of the Guardians? Isn’t that the rubbish CGI owl film that Zach Snyder tried to poison the world with back in 2010?”.

No, I haven’t decided that Zach Snyder’s critically-maligned kiddie-mation Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole  is ripe for re-visiting. I actually wanted to draw your attention to the upcoming Rise of the Guardians, because I’m putting my swingers on the line and saying that it will be good. Why? Well, how about the fact that it’s from the rapidly-improving Dreamworks Animation, of course. Or, if that’s not enough for you, what about the fact that this is the Studio that brought us the criminally-underseen How to Train Your Dragon (a film I rate as 3rd behind Avatar and Hugo in the best use of 3D stakes)? Still not enough for you? what if I were to say that it involves a world where Santa Claus, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost do battle with a new threat for the safety of all child-kind?

Santa: he ain’t playin’

Getting somewhere, huh? Ok, it’s probably a bit soon to be making predictions about the quality of a film that isn’t coming out until November, but if it can capture something of the fun and awe of How to Train Your Dragon, then it will have a good chance of being successul. And c’mon, how long has it been since Pixar had a legitimate challenger in the computer-animated film genre? Too long, I say. I haven’t yet seen Brave, and I love Pixar as much as the next rabidly-loyal fan, but it could do with some genuine competition to make sure that we can avoid the kind of complacency that led to Cars 2 (a film that, unfortunately did obscenely well finances-wise, if not review-wise).

Check out the trailer below, and then feel free to abuse me, but I’m sticking to my guns. I’m going to believe.

TA

The Newsroom
Jul 2012 10

This just in: The Newsroom premiers in the UK on Sky Atlantic tonight at 10pm. After watching the pilot, and, following its less than enthusiastic reception in the USA, here are my thoughts:

Aaron Sorkins latest TV show irritates and pleases in equal measures. It is unashamedly American, and starts with a fantastic rant by lead (and surrogate Sorkin) Jeff Daniels at a room of college students. His angry words relate to America no longer being the best country in the world, but that it could be, and that an informed country is a better country. Sorkin is asking the audience to buy into his central thesis that news is the answer to America’s current problems. This is his excuse for the self-important and pompous nature of the characters who walk (and talk) around with faux gravitas for the rest of the show.

You wouldn’t need to know in advance that this is an Aaron Sorkin production, it is him through and through. Fast dialogue, walking and talking, and intelligent and snappy sound bites. I really want to know if Mr Sorkin can write for a stupid character; I can’t think of any in his shows, and if America (or indeed, any country) really did have this ratio of smart people to stupid, maybe it really would be the best country in the world.

With The Newsroom I think he may have an uphill battle getting us to like these characters. Throughout the episode, the fact that the public don’t respect or trust the news is repeatedly referenced, thus making their plight something we find hard to swallow. Speaking of hard to swallow, some of the flagrant flag waving is so sickly sweet, it makes you want to hurl red white and blue. Throughout his writing, Sorkin comes across as an intelligent, thoughtful human being, which makes it surprising when this show makes clear that he seems to genuinely think that the USA is the best country in the world, as if such a thing could ever exist.

Basing each show around a real news event is a novel concept, but it’s convenient that one of the lead characters was able to get two sources for separate companies within seconds of the event occurring and then report the full scale of the story in hours rather than the days it took to unfold in real life, where you have to contend with like, real problems.

I’m an unabashed fan of Sorkin’s work, but am starting to worry that he is getting sucked into showing us how smart his characters are, or how smart he is. Some of the dialogue in this feels unnatural (even by his stylised standards!) and, having some involvement in broadcast News myself, feel that Anchorman is closer to the truth than Newsroom.

Having written all of the above, I will still watch the rest of the series, as it is well made, well acted and leagues above most other dramas on TV at the moment. Sorkin believes that America isn’t the greatest country in the world, but that it could be. I think The Newsroom is definitely not the greatest drama on TV, but that it can be better.

As an aside the iPhone will auto correct Sorkin to Dorkins. Try it.

The Amazing Spider-Man Puts the Reboot on the Other Foot
Jul 2012 15

So, after spending the last few months telling anyone who would listen that I thought that superhero movies were coming to the end of a cycle, last night I saw The Amazing Spider-Man. Aha! At this point, you probably think that my preaching is about to go into overdrive. Crazy bulging eyes, wild gestures ‘n’ all… But it won’t.

It won’t, because the film’s good… it’s really good.

“But it’s a reboot!” I hear you cry.

“A reboot of a film franchise only launched in 2002, whose final entry was only released in 2007!”.

Yes, when you put it like that, it does sound terrible. You’ve got to believe me though, I approached this film with all that skepticism in mind, but it won me over. Let me tell you how.

First though, I should probably tell you what it’s about (although since most people saw the 2002 Spider-Man, you could probably dictate it to me). Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) lives with his aunt and uncle in Manhattan. In this incarnation, Peter is a high school outsider with interests in photography and science, whose primary mode of transportation appears to be skateboard. He seems to be less of an overt geek than in the 2002 version.

Andrew Garfield: on the up

Pursuing said interest in science, Peter befriends Oscorp company scientist (and former friend to his deceased father) Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Connors lost his arm earlier in life, and is intent on re-growing it through research on lizards, who are able to grow a new tail after losing it.

During all this, Peter begins to get romantically entangled with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), his progress with her being rudely interrupted by an incident at Oscorp where he is rather inconveniently bitten by a radioactive spider. This bite gives him superhuman strength and agility, and a ‘spider-sense’ that allows him to anticipate short-notice danger. To say any more would be to ruin the plot, which, it has to be said, is not terribly original.

Emma Stone: bright as a button, not given enough time to shine

However, since we’re dealing with a story that has recently been told, more or less beat-for-beat, it would be harsh to hold that against this version of the film too much. It does detract from the impact of some of the initial story developments, though, as the (by now) well-worn superhero origin story is trotted out again. You get the sense that the director, Marc Webb, knew this, as well, because it’s not overly dwelt on. A neat touch is that this time, Peter uses his scientific prowess to construct web-slingers, rather than organically producing his spider web himself, something he also did in the comic books. Martin Sheen and Sally Field do their best to enliven the Uncle Ben and Aunt May schtick, but it proves difficult. I felt that Uncle Ben’s arc packed more emotional punch this time around, though.

So, how does Garfield do as Spider-Man? Very well, actually. Helped by a redesigned suit, and improved CGI, his physicality is more wiry and fast than Tobey Maguire. In short, he’s more spider-like. His Peter Parker is less shy, more brooding, and, in these less cliquey times, this makes him seem all the more modern. His Spider-Man is given more quips and more practical effects shots too (including some cool first-person sequences), allowing the viewer to get to know him. Emma Stone does a lot with a little, meaning that her Gwen Stacy is more than a damsel in distress, without ever quite becoming the fully-rounded character we crave in a female lead. With less screen-time having to be given over to the origin story, hopefully the inevitable sequel will allow her to develop more, as Emma Stone deserves room to stretch her undoubted talents. Rhys Ifans suffers from the lack of character-arc often given to villains in origin stories, as his transition from friend to foe seems slightly undercooked, although his performance makes up some of the shortfall. Performances on the whole are uniformly strong, even in the midst of some frenetic action scenes.

Ahhh the action scenes. If (500) Days of Summer made you think that Marc Webb wouldn’t know how to shoot action, allow me to reassure you. The Amazing Spider-Man has some genuinely tense and blood-pumping action scenes. An intentional use of as little CGI as possible gives them a more visceral feel, and a recurring use of close-up makes the fights feel real, and all the more painful because of it. With more time to develop the story, you trust that this adrenaline-laden nous could be augmented with some real emotional resonance in any future instalments.

Authentic Spidey poses, from the comics and everything!

So, any flaws? Well the script suffers from the familiar problems that befall the first film in any superhero franchise. Too much screen time needs to be given over to building the character of Spider-Man, which creates problems elsewhere. Some genuinely funny quips aside, the focus seems to be on quick and economical plot exposition, leaving little time for characters to breathe. Sally Field’s Aunt May is just one of the crowd of characters given short shrift when it comes to impactful character moments, and a compelling villain is something that should never be neglected. Still, Spider-Man doesn’t make his first appearance until around 40 minutes in, so they haven’t rushed things too much. I can’t comment on the 3D, as I am carrying on my one-man campaign to only patronise 2D screenings where possible.

Overall, this is probably my favourite Spider-Man film. Sam Raimi is a great director, and in fairness, his Spider-Man was released in a slightly different time, when superhero films were thinner on the ground and we didn’t quite know what to expect. This Spider-Man is a hero for the here and now, and the whole film has a more modern sheen. The bright colours and eagerness to avoid straying too far into the kind of dark, angsty territory frequented by Batman contributes to giving this the Marvel touch. Let’s hope that the film’s success gives Marc Webb more leeway to assert himself on future projects.

8/10

Agree, disagree, or other? Comment below and let me know!

TA

Retro Review: Career Opportunities
Jul 2012 16

***Every so often, we here at RBT like to revisit older films to see how they hold up by today’s standards, to keep our film knowledge fresh, but mostly just to give us more things to argue about. Due to being born mid-way through the 80s, a lot of the cinematic fodder from that decade and the early 90s (classics aside) has perhaps passed me by. Tom Williams decided that enough was enough, and he prescribed Career Opportunities to be the inaugural entry in this continuing series. So without further ado, on with the review….***

John Hughes’ Career Opportunities is a hard film to have an opinion on. On the one hand, it’s a fun slice of nostalgia pie, a young male wish-fulfilment fantasy with a danceable and well implemented soundtrack. It also has that 80s/90s sheen that all John Hughes’ best films have. On the other, cold, hard, and cynical hand, it’s a slight, unremarkable piece of fluff, devoid of real drama, lacking originality, and displaying a sagging midsection.

Jim Dodge: caught in a rare moment of silence

John Hughes is one of my favourite directors and writers, ever. The hyperreal world he created that are inhabited by the characters of his best films is a joy to visit, his use of smart dialogue, pop culture references and pop music still defines teen-orientated content today, and he seemed like one of the few adults who really understood teenagers. Ferris Bueller’s Day OffThe Breakfast Club, Plans, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science… These are the classic John Hughes films, and Career Opportunities falls into the ‘Lesser Hughes’ camp, alongside She’s Having a Baby, and Curly Sue, among others. Not that these films are bad, they just aren’t anywhere near as good as the real Hughes youth-centric classics.

Our protagonist on this merry tale is Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley), a young man with a talent for talking and not much else, whose grand plans stop him from actually achieving anything in his day-to-day existence. Aged 21 and living at home, Jim’s prospects don’t look too bright when, out of desperation (and via a brilliant cameo from John Candy) he lands a job as Night Cleanup Boy at his local target. Meanwhile, the local beautiful, but tormented-inside, rich girl, Josie McLellan (Jennifer Connelly) wants to escape her domineering father and, in her desire to do something, anything, about her situation, ends up botching a shoplifting attempt and getting stuck inside the store with Jim overnight. See what I mean about male wish-fulfilment? Cue a lot of gags involving rollerskates, ovens, clothes, food and hair-brained attempts to speed up the cleaning process. An underdeveloped plot point involving a store robbery attempt doesn’t quite succeed, but the way that the two protagonists change and affect each other is enjoyable, even if the basic plotting has been done many times before.

A real, bonafide Hughesian heroine

Jim is a Hughes protagonist in the Ferris Bueller mode, a gift for talking and an innate audacity giving you the feeling that whatever his failings, he’ll be alright in life. He’s believably deluded, and gives even some of the weaker lines an earnest like-ability that masks any script weaknesses. Jennifer Connelly definitely has the looks for the part, but she has also always been a real actress. The better aspects of the script are where she is able to persuade Jim that he isn’t happy with his lot in life, and that he should aspire to more. Some of the clunkier lines of exposition come her way, but she powers on through, delivering the lines well enough that they almost seem plausible. Hughes’ trademark quirky side characters are well-realised in what little screen time they have, with Barry Corbin as Officer Don and John M. Jackson as Bud Dodge, Jim’s father. Dermot and Kieran Mulroney give good, eccentric villain, but aren’t allowed much screen time to establish their characters’ threat.

The music is fantastic, and like a lot of John Hughes films, perfectly complements the onscreen action. Problem is, it’s genuinely one of the best things about the movie. So much time is spent on the (admittedly fun) mall escapades that the momentum of the story is stalled, and ancillary characters aren’t developed into anything more than cyphers. In a lot of ways, its Hughesian (it’s a word, I invented it!) touches highlight its shortcomings. The Breakfast Club this ain’t.

Still, if, on a Sunday afternoon, you want an easy watch, with a guaranteed happy ending, very mild peril in between, and you’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off too recently, then this might hit the spot, albeit less effectively. Growing up in the mid 80s/early 90s, these films are fun in an ironic, nostalgic, wistful sort of way. If you were to judge it harshly, it would be an easy target to dissect, yet its aims are so amiable, it’s intentions so true, that it’s hard to dislike. Sort of like shooting a puppy.

7/10

TA

The Dark Knight Rises: Beware the Enraged Fanboys
Jul 2012 18

The latest Chris Nolan Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises nearly upon us. A film so hyped and anticipated, it has reached and surpassed ‘event movie’ status. The early reviews have been devoured and dissected by fans of the previous films in the series. Even film fans who were not particularly keen on the previous films will look on with interest, as any film franchise this popular and successful will have knock-on effects on the industry for years.

The release of The Dark Knight Rises has also been accompanied by the news that the review-aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, has had to take the unprecedented step of suspending comments on its The Dark Knight Rises reviews. This is due to the savage nature with which fans of the franchise attacked reviewers who either gave the film a negative review, or weren’t seen to be positive enough. This touches on another issue that I have with review aggregator websites, but I will deal with this in a later article. Many creative properties can engender this kind of reaction, and the internet really does give everyone a voice these days, a very democratic concept. But when it gives rise to these fundamentalist zealots calling themselves fans, is that a good thing? Why is it that this has happened with this film, and why now?

Read on…

Chris Nolan’s Batman films have been huge successes, Batman Begins wasn’t the first superhero film, but was released in the first rush of superhero films that followed the success of the Spider-Man and X-Men films. It received strong reviews in the mainstream press, mostly pleasantly surprised that it was possible to make such a grown-up superhero film and was lauded by comic-book fans, developing a loyal following.

Chris Nolan, this is all your fault!

Fast-forward to 2008, and the release of The Dark Knight. The revolutionary viral marketing campaign, the intervening years of fanboy hysteria and debate concerning the identity of the Joker, the early death of Heath Ledger, and the well-timed drip feed of trailers culminated in the perfect storm that was the film’s cinematic release. What was different this time? The second entry in Nolan’s trilogy had genuine crossover appeal, and was praised for being a more intelligent and adult comic-book movie, with grown-up themes and a towering performance by Ledger as the Joker. By this time, fanboys upon fanboys had joined the army of Bat-fans. The financial success of the film, coupled with a burgeoning online community, nurtured by the viral marketing, had reached an almost virulently loyal state.

Like anything successful, whether it be a pop song, a work of art, or a film, there will always be contrarians, people who genuinely dislike the film, or those who find it hard to like something that is so overwhelmingly popular and hyped. It has always been this way, and it is the people who fit into these broad categories that lead the then-inevitable backlash. The internet has given a voice to everyone, and that is a good thing, but this voice can also be a force for evil.

So, back to 2012, and the release of TDKR. If you actually check the movie’s RT page, as of the time of writing, it holds an 87% ‘fresh’ rating, which is extremely high for a Blockbuster that will be so widely-reviewed. The general gist seems to be that the film has a very complicated plot that becomes hard to follow, lots of characters, and that it is a very long film in terms of running time. Both positive and negative reviews mention these points, and the positive reviews tend to be more or less 5-stars, whilst the less glowing tend to find those issues to be too problematic to really go as far as giving it a perfect score. Hey, we all know that making a threequel is hard, it’s known to be very difficult to maintain that quality. Regardless if the RT score, this film wil more than likely be seen as a great achievement, and the trilogy as one of the greats in cinema history. If anyone has any suggestions of good third entries, please leave a comment.

As this article in The Guardian recounts, the vitriol being directed at those reviewers who would dare be anything other than overwhelmingly positive about the film has been so extreme as to move Rotten Tomatoes to shut down the commenting facility for this film. The first time this has happened in the history of the website.

Batman faces his greatest foe yet. No, not Bane. Internet Trolls.

At this point, I should point out that I love the Nolan Batman films. I am a fan of the comics, and have been very impressed with the sheer creativity that Chris and Jonathan Nolan have exhibited in bringing this property to the screen. However the scale of adulation for the films sits quite uncomfortably with me, as they either seem to be overtly praised, or over-criticised in an attempt to balance it out. I look forward to the day when the debate will have died down, and I can watch the film without the baggage of fanboy flame wars echoing behind my eyes.

The point is this: the internet has given people a voice, but it allows them anonymity. When you hide behind the cloak of anonymity, and you have never met the person you are addressing, you are crueller and more zealous than you would if you were talking to them in person. Without the shackles of social convention holding you back, you are able to really let loose in your quest to best your opponent, they are the Joker to your Batman, and it’s up to you to take them down as soon as possible. The safety of Gotham’s at stake! Sometimes, you have to be the hero Gotham needs, not necessarily the one that it wants right now, so if it takes racist, sexist, foul-mouthed slurs to achieve the objective, then it needs to be done… Doesn’t it???

Congratulations, you are a hero. You have made a film-reviewer who just happens to not share your opinion on a film feel worse than they did before reading your comments. At this point, I’d like to point out that this all concerns a film that hasn’t even been released yet, meaning that the vast majority of these people haven’t even seen the film to have an opinion on it. This last fact makes the whole thing seem farcical, which it is. The internet is still a new medium, still developing etiquette and traditions, but this should never be acceptable, ever. It makes me feel ashamed that I like the same films as these people, and it needs to stop now.

However, this Friday, at 8pm, I will be at the Cineworld in Hammersmith with my tickets at the ready, and will I let it bother me while watching the film?

Not in the slightest.

TA

 

Jul 2012 19

To write this piece, I used IMDB to cross check some information about the cast. I was surprised to find that The Newsroom is currently scoring 8.8 out of 10. To put this in perspective; The West Wing scores 8.7 and The Sopranos 9.5. If you follow this logic, it is up there with the greats and should be judged accordingly. We all have friends that, upon meeting their other halves, think ‘I don’t know what they see in them’, and that reflects the way I feel about ‘The Newsroom’ at the moment.

Admittedly, there are flashes of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliance in the writing; the trademark intelligent, fast paced dialogue, especially between Maggie (Alison Pill) and Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) in this second episode is fantastic, but is surrounded by some otherwise bog standard filler.

John Gallagher J

Alison Pill

What annoys me most? The obvious nature of the plots and the relationships. This week Will (Jeff Daniels) and his ex, Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) have a disagreement about the running order, and if they should concentrate on viewing figures, or reporting the News. It is so apparent that by the end of the hour Will will have come round to her way of thinking that it is hard to maintain interest.

There is no edge, no surprise, not even any mild peril to make us concerned for the characters, or their story arcs. Truly great TV Drama has an edge and takes risks, for example: Prime Suspect, The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men … they all have characters which can flip on you at any moment and take you somewhere you couldn’t have imagined.

As I have said previously, it has very high production values and, on the whole is well acted, but 8.8? Come on! Seriously?

This really feels like Sorkin’s guide to making safe TV. I will give it a couple more episodes, but I’m warning you Sorkin, if it doesn’t pull up its socks, I will go back to watching Spiral. And I mean it.

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